Arik: King of the Jews
by Gad Nahshon
Recently, at the convention of the Likud party in Tel Aviv when Sharon was challenged by Bibi Netanyahu, his admirers shouted: 'Arik, King of the Jews.' The origin of this battle cry is the 'Yom Kippur War' (Oct. 1973), when Gen. (Ret.) Arik Sharon saved Israel by crossing the canal. He then demonstrated his military genius, his original thinking.
Sharon had a history of challenging Israel's military establishment. That's the reason that he was not nominated to be Chief of Staff. Sharon always has tried to improve Israel's military might by revolution. For example, in 1953 he established 'Unit 101' with legendary fighters such as Shlomo Baum and Meir Harzion.
Sharon, like many ex-generals, decided to develop a political career. There is a tendency to ask: Has Sharon demonstrated that he is also a political genius? Is he a great statesman? Will he find a formula to dismantle the anti-Israeli global Arab-Muslim-Palestinian terrorism? Can he save Israel from the new Arabic crusade of genocide, of a 'final solution' to Israel? Anita Miller, Jordan Miller and Sigalit Zetouni published a new biography, the only English biography of Arik Sharon. It is an unauthorized biography. The book: Sharon, Israel's Warrior-Politician (Academy Chicago Publishers and Olive Production and Publishing, Chicago, 2002) has 640 pages, indexes and maps (it does not have a glossary) and many important photographs. The authors do not have a background in military history or Israeli politics. They did not use oral history or original research in Israeli archives. But it is an important detailed survey of Sharon's life since he was born in Kfar Mallal (Moshav) in 1928 and as a teenager joined the Hagana, Israel's then underground paramilitary organization. And as a young man he fought in some of the most controversial battles of The War of Independence.
Sharon published his own autobiography Warrior (1989) but the book did not make the news. for many people outside Israel, Sharon was the epitome of militarism, the most hated Israeli in the Arab world. They stigmatized him by the title "The Butcher of Sabra and Shatila." For many years Sharon was a persona non-grata in Washington, D.C. But those days are over. It should be noted that the authors who love art more than war try to be objective. They do not pass judgment against Sharon although they used Uzi Benziman's book about Sharon as a source. He has a well known agenda against Sharon.
As to sources, the authors used the media as a source. They used the internet but as I pointed out we need oral history, we need interviews with those we knew Sharon or fought together with him. But we must keep in mind that the authors goal was to provide a survey with basic facts to the average American reader. Of course, it is hard to assess many events because Sharon is still a leader and a Prime Minister. We do not have the right perspective and let history judge.
The book Sharon is a well ".documented history of a complex man and a complex country." It will help the reader to understand the Middle-East conflicts and wars. The authors traced Sharon's role from his youth to the recent 'Operation Defensive Shield' in the West Bank or the assassination of Gen. (Ret) Rehavam Zeevy (Gandhi). The survey itself is enriching to the reader. But the authors should integrate a military historian who has the right needed background. There are some mistakes in this book (p. 300) but that is not the issue. The authors do not provide us with some conclusions. They follow the events but not the issue. For example: The chapter of 'Unit 101' is boring and too small. The Israeli Army (I.D.F.): what was Arik's contributions to this army? Unit 101 is the Israeli army today!
'101' was the micro and I.D.F. is its macro. Of course, since the authors do no use primary sources, and many are available even in the official Israeli military archive, they could not learn about the people who played or have played a major role in Sharon's life such as Dubi Weisglass. Often reading the book and swimming in its ocean of details (based on newspapers and books) one cannot make the difference between the important chapters and the less important chapters as well. That's the disadvantage of a chronological approach to a story. What fact is important and what is a marginal one? Also the book does not explain how a leader which was a member of the Labor movement society-culture, a disciple of Ben-Gurion/Moshe Dayan, a disciple of Mapai, the party who ruled from 1930 to 1977, turned out to be the leader of the Likud, a party based on the Jabotinsky/Begin/Shamir legacy. The book does not discuss how Sharon pushed Begin's party Herut and the party of the general Zionists (Sapir-Rokach, Bernstein, Serlin, Erlich, Mapai) into a political merger, the creation of the Likud! This is the epitome of Sharon's genius!
The analytical issue is: Sharon, today, is a disciple of Jabotinsky or Ben-Gurion. His political agenda originated in the Revisionists dreams or the activism of Mapai or Yosef Tabenkin and his disciple, the great statesman, the forgotten on Yigal Alon! Many ignorant writers and journalists in Israel to these day do not figure out that the idea of activism, settlements, pioneerism, the idea of greater Israel is not and was never a monopoly of the right or fanatic religious settlers. This idea was born in the worm of the Israeli socialist (Kibbutznik) left as its legitimate approach to the Arab issue. Who is Sharon? Will he be 'Arik, the King of the Jews' in the recent future? Will he re-invent himself so that his genius would visit us again? Will he save Israel from the waves of terrorism? Will he once and for all counter their 'Final Solution' and reinforce Israel's survival? In the meantime, the American reader can be benefited from Sharon by Anita Miller, Jordan Miller and Zetouni.
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